Price paid: $ 400
Purchased from: Long Forgotten
Features — 7
I always loved the sculpt to the body. Flat planks of wood just feel boring to me and, with its deep finish, it's just built to constantly look great as light plays over it. The mostly Schaller and Gotoh parts are decent but the gold tends to pit with age. I've just bought another one, second hand, after mine was stolen. Its hardware was in a much worse state, still, with all of the gold pitted and aged, the color completely gone from the Duncan Designed pickups. But... I love the guitar enough that I'm having fun sourcing perfect replacements and rebuilding it better than new. Oh and the Duncan Designed pickups? Not to be confused with actual Seymour Duncan pickups.
Sound — 8
I've got a terrible ear so I can't really comment. That said, this is the guitar that plays exactly what's in my head. I had a custom built PRS that cost 5-10x as much and I still played the Hamer all the time. For me, it had plenty of sustain. It was warm and rich. It did what I wanted. A lot of people don't like the Duncan Designed SH-4s that it comes with. That's not really a problem. Less than $200 and you can replace them with genuine Seymour Duncan SH-4s. Or an SH-4/'59 as I'm going. It's also worth noting: unplug it. Listen to the sound of it unamped. It's simply a great sounding body. Add the hardware and you've got all of the ingredients right there.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
It's a $400 guitar. The Schaller and Gotoh hardware's going to oxidize over time. My original needed a pickup selector replacement after a couple of years. The new one has slight crackle on the bridge volume and the output needs replacing. But these are sub $10 items and a simple solder job. As for action... Well set up, it plays nicely. It'll buzz long before the action's set as low as my PRS could go but... uh... did I mention 5-10x the price? Frets were fine. Nothing was misaligned. Neck was straight. Bridge needed slight adjustment to get the intonation perfect.
Reliability & Durability — 8
The main finish stands up very, very well. I just used Music Nomad Guitar Polish to pull off 15 years of grime then Music Nomad Guitar One to bring out the finish and it looks stunning - this is on a second hand guitar that was gigged hard. The metal oxidizes. My well cared for guitar was looking a little rough after 15 years. The heavily gigged replacement looks terrible. But the parts are cheap to replace - except for where I went with better than the original - so it's not really a big issue to me. Nothing's gone wrong with it that less than $10 and two minutes with a soldering iron can't fix. Can't comment on the strap buttons as I always replace mine with strap locks.
Overall Impression — 9
I can't give it higher ratings for each of the earlier fields because, yeah, far better made guitars, with far better features, do exist. But they exist at 5-10x the price. For a $400 new, $200 second hand, guitar... I've not found anything else close to as beautiful, nor as solid a day to day performer. There's a reason I desperately hunted down a replacement after mine was stolen and there's a reason I'm happy to spend the money getting it back to better than new. $200 of SH-4 and '59 genuine Duncan pickups, $100 of Tonepros bridge and saddle, less than $50 in new controls, tuning heads, output and position selector and I've got a stunning bodied guitar, that sounds far better than stock... all for $550. Pretty much a steal.